Comedian Elon Gold explains the success behind ‘The Chosen Comedy Festival’

Gold told us that he considers himself to be a "Jewish comedian" as opposed to a "comedian who happens to be Jewish."
Elon Gold performs live on stage during "The Chosen Comedy Festival" at James L. Knight Center on December 14, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)

Jewish comedian Elon Gold hosted “The Chosen Comedy Festival” in Brooklyn last summer with Modi Rosenfeld, and it drew more than 4,000 adoring fans. 

On August 8, the festival will once again take place at the Coney Island Amphitheater in Brooklyn. Gold and Rosenfeld will be joined by fellow comedians Jeff Ross, Jessica Kirson, Ari Shaffir and the soul/folk Hasidic band, Zusha, as well as other performers. The festival was conceived by Stand Up NY owner Dani Zoldan, with Gold and Rosenfeld.

Gold’s special, “Chosen & Taken,” was on Netflix and is now on Amazon Prime. 

His latest special on YouTube is “Sets in the City,” filmed at the Comedy Cellar. The Los Angeles resident shocked the world with a rousing routine at the United Nations several years ago.

He once starred on a Fox show called “Stacked” with Pamela Anderson and has appeared on “Crashing” on the platform now called Max, as well as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as a Jewish Hulu executive, whose dialogue was peppered with words like tachlis (meaning, “getting to the point”) and Shabbos.

In a previous interview, Gold told us that he considers himself to be a “Jewish comedian” as opposed to a “comedian who happens to be Jewish.”

“It’s not just my brand, it’s not just my go-to — it is what I love to talk about, my people, my heritage, our traditions. I love to poke fun — and that’s an important distinction too. I don’t make fun, I poke fun. When you make fun of something, you’re being derisive — you’re an outsider and you’re mocking…I’m an insider.”

“Jerry Seinfeld is a comedian who happens to be Jewish. If you watch the Seinfeld show, he mentions being Jewish, I think, twice in nine seasons. If I had my own sitcom, I’d be talking about being Jewish every minute,” he added.

This time, Gold told Unpacked about why he name-dropped Jewish journalist Bari Weiss on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” what it’s like to do tag-team comedy with Modi and why “The Chosen Comedy Festival” has been so successful.

Q: In a promo Facebook video for the festival, you did a great Jackie Mason impersonation, while Ami Kozak did a fine Don Rickles impersonation and comedian Eli Lebowitz was himself. What do you think Jackie Mason would say about “The Chosen Comedy Festival” if he were still alive?

A: (Answers jokingly in a Jackie Mason impersonation) It makes me nauseous so many Jews have to be on one stage. When it was me, it was one Jew on one stage. That’s all you need. All of the Jews on the podium running this way and that way and Ari Shaffir. It’s too many Jews in one place. When I did a one-man show, it was called that because all you need is one man. That’s why I had a Broadway show, and it was a big hit, and then I had another one that was a bigger hit. They’re so nauseating they need to surround themselves with other people.

Q: There’s been a lot of criticism of “Barbie,” with some like Piers Morgan saying the movie has a “misandrist message.” What’s your take?

A: I think it’s sad that great art is politicized. It’s like, you can enjoy the cinematic experience. There’s brilliant costume design, incredible acting, and creative artistry. It’s like, ‘Hey, remember these dolls?” They came up with a movie that’s entertaining. I sat there for two hours and loved every minute of it. It warmed my heart that they paid tribute to this beautiful Jewish woman who created the ultimate non-Jewish play doll. It made me proud. Look what Jews are contributing to the world for children to expand their imagination. I wasn’t much of a “doll guy,” but so many childhoods were enhanced because of one idea this Jewish woman had. Ideas are everything and no one knows that more than a comedian.

Q: I know you performed in the Catskills Saturday Night. Did you catch anyone trying to sneak food in their pockets?

A: We were at the Kartrite Hotel. I don’t know why they’re building hotels without dining rooms. Have they met Jews? The new hotels going up have game rooms, they have arcades, they have casinos. All you need is a dining room, a bed and a toilet. That’s basically the circle of the day anyway, isn’t it?

Q: Major League Baseball introduced a 20-second pitch clock to speed up the game. There are a lot of Jewish singles parties coming up, where some people take a long time to ask for contact details. Do you think there should be a “Get Their Number” clock where someone has to take action within a few minutes or some kind of set time frame?

A: That’s a good analogy, but I think it’s about chemistry, not a time limit. Comedy is about timing, but love is about chemistry, so you can’t put a time limit on that.

Q: In your single days, I imagine it never took you more than a few minutes to get a number, correct?

A: I never had a single day in my life. I literally was born married. I met my wife when I was 15. So, I don’t know what it’s like to be single, nor would I want to. I’m happily married. All of my single friends are more miserable than my married friends, as horrible as marriage is. I wish singles luck and if they need to take their time, let them take their time.

Q: You and Gary Gulman are pretty much the only tall Jewish comics and much of your humor is observational. Do you feel pressure to have good material since, due to your height, you can see what’s going on before anyone else?

A: I have sons that are 6’4. Gary Gulman is very tall and a giant of a comedian. He’s one of the best there and he’s [George] Carlin-esque. I don’t try to be as good as Gulman. You can’t be.

Q: Many wondered when you played a Hulu executive on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and name-dropped Bari Weiss. Was that written or ad-libbed?

A: Like 94% of everything I said on “Curb” and everyone else says on “Curb,” it’s ad-libbed. You just get an outline. The funny thing is when I said it, it really cracked Larry up. We had to do the scene again. He came over to me and said, “How did you think of Bari Weiss?” He’s a fan of hers. I said, “Cause I had her over for Shabbos dinner Friday night.” He said, “How do you even know her?” I said I met her at a gig where she was the keynote speaker. He said, “Let me guess, it was an event where they said, “We must save Israel.” I told him it was.

Larry David with Elon Gold, who played a Hulu executive on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Photo courtesy of Max)

Q: In previous years, you hosted the festival in Brooklyn, Miami, and Los Angeles, and this year, it’s in Brooklyn again. What is it like to host it with Modi, your lifelong friend and comedy colleague?

A: Not easy. Modi and I are stand-up solo comedians. So, when we work together, it’s a challenge but it’s very fun. Our styles are different, so we have to adjust and make sure the chemistry is right. We rehearse it and work on it. Our natural habitat is being alone on stage. For people that are fans of both of us, it’s a great thrill. I remember when — on a much higher madrega (level) — Billy Crystal and Robin Williams would do something, it was euphoria to me. These were my two favorites performing together. There’s something great watching two friends riff off each other, and it can feel more special than watching one alone. But it’s uniquely challenging even though we are great friends.

Q: Why do you think “The Chosen Comedy Festival” has been so successful?

I think the festival attracts so many people because it’s unprecedented. Jeff Ross, Ari Shaffir, Jessica Kirson and a lot of other talent will be on stage. We’ve done it in a few cities and the response has been overwhelming.

Q: Mel Brooks is still alive. Many Jewish comedians have lived long lives. Do you think it’s possible that comedy can keep someone young and help them live long?

A: I have no doubt that comedy keeps people alive. Comedy and cigars are what kept Sid Caesar, George Burns and Milton Berle alive. That being said, I might not make it to when this article is online.

The Chosen Comedy Festival will take place on August 8 at the Coney Island Amphitheater.

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